The West Memphis Three, three men imprisoned in 1994 for killing three 8-year-old Cub Scouts in Arkansas, changed their pleas Friday. Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin used a legal maneuver that allowed them to simultaneously say that they are innocent and admit that prosecutors likely have sufficient evidence to win.
The West Memphis Three were freed immediately after the plea.
Echols was sentenced to death and Misskelley and Baldwin were sentenced to life in prison. All three men have consistently maintained that they are innocent.
I am innocent of these charges but I am entering an Alford guilty plea, Echols told the judge.
Although I am innocent, this plea is in my best interest, Misskelley said according to the Associated Press.
Echols was freed from death row and all three men received credit with time served. They were all given 10 years' probation, prosecutor Scott Ellington said.
Baldwin and Echols pleaded guilty on three counts of first-degree murder and Misskelley pleaded guilty on two counts of second-degree murder. The Alford plea allowed the men to maintain their innocence.
The men were convicted despite very little physical evidence linking them to the murders.
Some of the victims' families, including Byers' adoptive father John Mark Byers have told the media that they do not think that the right people were convicted.
According to CBS News, Byers said, There's certainly no justice for the three men that's been in prison or my son and his two friends. He added that To me, this is just a cop-out from the state for not wanting to admit that they made a mistake.
Echols said that he has been in solitary for so long that this is overwhelming, CBS News reported.